Should parents be required to vaccinate?

KUSA—Colorado's members of congress have varying philosophies on whether parents should be legally required to vaccinate their children, with views that don't break neatly down party lines.

President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner have both publicly urged parents across their country to vaccinate their children amid the a recent resurgence of measles, (link to main story) though neither pushed for a legal mandate for parents to get their children immunized.

9NEWS found Colorado's delegation all over the map when it comes to philosophical views on mandatory vaccinations.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) supports legally requiring vaccines.

So do two prominent Republicans from Colorado.

Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Mike Coffman both told 9NEWS that ideally there should be a legal requirement for parents to have their children vaccinated against disease.

While neither is actively pushing for legislation to enact such a requirement, the generally pro-mandatory philosophy puts them at odds with some other conservatives in their party.

Several Republican members of the Colorado state legislature are working to enact a bill dubbed the "parent's bill of rights," which is meant to solidify and broaden the individual choices of parents over their children's health care, including immunizations.

That general sentiment, at least when it comes to the ultimate decision-making authority about whether children should be vaccinated, is shared by some members of both major political parties in Colorado's delegation to congress.

Reps. Scott Tipton (R-Colorado) and Jared Polis (D-Colorado) both told 9NEWS they didn't think the law should require parents to vaccinate.

"Both of Rep. Polis' children have received vaccinations," Polis spokesman Scott Overland wrote to 9NEWS. "He believes that while it is in the best interest of children to receive them, it is not appropriate to have a legal requirement mandating vaccinations."

Similarly, Tipton's office told 9NEWS that vaccinations are "safe and effective," but shouldn't be mandatory.

"Congressman Tipton believes that children should be vaccinated, but doesn't believe it's the role of government to force parents and their children's physicians to do so," wrote Josh Green, a spokesman for Tipton.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colorado) expressed support for mandatory immunizations, calling state-level government the "appropriate place" to set such policies, adding that the measles outbreak is a good reason to give Colorado's state laws a check-up.

"While Colorado has strong vaccination requirements, every state should evaluate their standards-- especially the exemptions they grant—in light of recent outbreaks," DeGette wrote.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado) thinks parents should vaccinate their children. He believes the law should require it.

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colorado) didn't directly address the question, but indicated a preference against setting national or statewide policy.

"Vaccination decisions are very personal and in almost every case should be made by parents consulting with their physician," said Buck's chief of staff Greg Brophy. "We'll leave the legal question to local authorities, school boards and daycare centers can set their own standards."

Colorado is one of 20 states which allows a personal belief exemption for parents wishing to opt-out of vaccinating their children, according to the National Conference of State Legilsatures.

All states except Mississippi and West Virginia allow exemptions for religious beliefs.

Rep. Doug Lamborn, (R) did not immediately provide direct responses when asked about the issue by 9NEWS.

Editor's Note: The video attached to this story was aired before Perlmutter and Buck gave us their response.

(KUSA-TV © 2015 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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